Sudan leader meets Netanyahu as prelude to “forging normal relations”

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli officials have said that Tel Aviv and Sudan have agreed to move towards forging normal relations after the leaders of the two countries met in Uganda.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s sovereign council, in Entebbe.

An Israeli statement said: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al Burhan, met today (Monday, 3 February 2020), in Entebbe, Uganda, on the invitation of Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. It was agreed to start cooperation leading to normalisation of the relationship between the two countries.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that Sudan is headed in a new positive direction and he expressed his views to the Secretary of State of the United States of America. The Chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al Burhan, is eager to help his country modernise by taking it out of isolation and putting it on the world’s map.”

Following the meeting Netanyahu tweeted: “We agreed to begin cooperation that will lead to normalisation of relations between the two countries. History!”

However, Sudan is remaining tight-lipped about the meeting so far and no pictures have yet been published.

Netanyahu was on an official visit to Uganda where the meeting took place

Sudan’s Foreign Minister Asmaa Mohammed Abdullah said she had learned of the Monday meeting through media outlets and had no further information.

And Sudan’s information minister and government spokesman, Faisal Salih, said he had no information about the visit to Uganda and that the cabinet had not discussed it. Officials would wait for “clarifications” on Burhan’s return, Salih said in a later statement.

The Associated Press news agency quoted a Sudanese military official as saying the meeting was coordinated by the United Arab Emirates and also aimed at removing Sudan from the U.S.’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism.”

In January 2016, Sudan’s former Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandoor had said normalising relations with Israel would be possible in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions on his country.

Israel previously considered Sudan a security threat, due to Iran’s suspected use of the country as a conduit for overland smuggling of munitions to the occupied Gaza Strip. In 2009, regional sources said, Israeli aircraft bombed an arms convoy in Sudan.

However, since Sudan’s longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was removed from office last year, Khartoum has distanced itself from Iran and no longer poses such a threat, Israeli officials say.

Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official denounced Monday’s meeting as a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people.”

This was also a “stark departure from the Arab peace initiative at a time when the administration of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement carried by official news agency WAFA.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said normalising relations with Israel “encourages the occupation to continue its crimes and aggressions against the Palestinians.”

And Palestinian Islamic Jihad called on the “Sudanese people, their civil movements and their free revolutionaries to oppose any attempt to damage Sudan’s respected position.”

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